Many such models of animals, such as dogs, cats, deer, boars and horses, were made as ornaments for European mantelpieces.
Real elephants would not have been seen in Japan at this time, and these unusual examples were likely ordered specially by merchants of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) for export.
Porcelain making began in Japan relatively late, in the 1610s. For several decades around the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644, production in China was curtailed, giving an opportunity for Japanese makers temporarily to take over the trade.
From about 1660 potters near Arita in Kyushu began Kakiemon-style decoration in overglaze coloured enamels and these elephants date from the period 1660-90.